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Saturday, October 06, 2007

LONG, NEEDLESS WORDS

I paused last Thursday, to take note of the 50th anniversary of the launch of the first man-made satellite, Sputnik, which I am told actually means “traveling companion”. According to “The Wide World of Words” the name Sputnik gave a jolt to the English language, laying the ground work for words like “beatnik”, “neatnik”, “refusenik”, “peacenik”, and “Muttnik” used to describe the first dog (Russian) orbited into space. U.S. rockets from the time, which seemed to keep blowing up, were called “Kaputnik” and “Flopnick”. I presume that a rejection of this Russian invasion of the English language would have been made by “Nikniks”, but maybe not. In any case the subject lead me, rather naturally, to a consideration of the role of popular culture in the advancement of science, which leads one naturally to the Annals of Improbable Research, and their annual IgNobel Prizes – pronounced “ig-NO-bell Prize-es”.
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The prizes were first awarded in 1991, when the prize in Medicine went to Alan Kligerman., the inventor of Beano, and the prize for Interdisciplinary Research went to Josiah Carberry for his work in psychoceramics – or “cracked pots”, and the Peace Prize was awarded to Edward Teller, “for his lifelong efforts to change the meaning of ‘Peace as we know it’.
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In 1992 the prize for Art was presented to Jim Knowlton and the National Endowment for the Arts for their classic anatomy poster, “Penises of the Animal Kingdom”, even though rumors of a pop-up book version proved to be intriguing but false. Dr. Cecil Jacobson was awarded the Biology Prize for developing a simple, single-handed method of quality control for sperm banks, Ivette Bassa won the prize in chemistry for developing bright blue Jell-O, and Yuri Struchkov of the Institute of Organoelement Compounds in Moscow won the Literature prize by publishing 948 scientific papers over 9 years, about one new paper every 4 days.
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Among the 1993 winners were the Biology prize for a study of “Salmonella Excretion in Joy-Riding Pigs”. The prize in Economics that year went to Ravi Batra, author of best sellers, “The Great Depression of 1990”, and “Surviving the Great Depression of 1990”, the prize in Medicine went to three doctors who wrote “Acute Management of the Zipper- Entrapped Penis”, and the prize in Mathematics went to Robert Faid, who calculated that the odds were 860,609,175,188, 282, 100 to one that Michail Gorbachev was the Antichrist. Ron Popeil was also honored as inventor of the Veg-O-Matic, the Pocket Fisherman and the Inside-the-Shell Egg Scrambler.
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The 1994 prize in Chemistry went to Texas State Senator Bob Glascow, who wanted to make it illegal in his state to purchase test tubes without a permit, and the prize in Literature went to L.Ron Hubbard for you know what. Two doctors at the U. of Arizona Health Services Center won that year’s prize in Medicine for their report “Failure of Electric Shock Treatment for Rattlesnake Envenomation”, concerning their patient who attempted to treat his venomous snake bite by connecting his lip via spark plug wires to a revving auto engine. The Southern Baptists Church of Alabama also won the Mathematics award for their county-by-county estimate of how many Alabamians are going to Hell.
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The 1995 prize for Literature went to Busch and Starling for their research into, “Rectal Foreign Bodies; Case Reports and a Comprehensive Review”. Among other items the reports detail seven light bulbs, a knife sharpener, two flashlights, a spring, a snuff box, an oil can, 11 different kinds of vegetables, a jeweler’s saw, a frozen pig’s tail, a suitcase key and a magazine.
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The 1999 prize in Health Care went to the inventors of U.S. Patent 3,216,424; a high speed spinning birthing table. The year of 2000 saw the award for Chemistry go jointly to doctors from the University if Pisa, Italy and the University of California at San Diego for their discovery that romantic love is biologically identical to obsessive-compulsive disorder, and Chris Niswander won that year’s award for Computer Science for his development of software which detects when your cat is walking across your keyboard. He called it, PawSense. David Dunning of Cornell and Justin Kreuger of U.of Illinois won the prize in Psychology that year for their report, “Unskilled and Unaware of It; How Difficulties in Recognizing One’s Own Incompetence Lead to Inflated Self-Assessments”.
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The banner year of 2002 was marked by a University of Sydney study of human belly button fluff, which won the Interdisciplinary Research Award, and the winner of the Literary award for a report on “The Effects of Pre-Existing Inappropriate Highlighting on Reading Comprehension”, a report on “Scrotal Asymmetry in Man and in Ancient Sculpture” which won the Medicine award, and the Interdisciplinary Research winner from Stockholm, “Chickens Prefer Beautiful Humans”.
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But most notable that year was the award for Literature which was given to John Trinkaus of the Zicklin School of Business (NYC) who had published over 80 detailed reports on how people wear baseball caps, the color of sports shoes, how many swimmers stay in the shallow end of the pool, how many drivers come to full and complete stops at stop signs, and how many people enter the 10 items or less line with more than 10 items. Someday, somebody is going to ask one of those questions and really want an answer. And now we will have one.
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The 2004 winner of the Award for Fluid Dynamics was entitled, “Pressures Produced When Penguins Poo – Calculations on Avian Defecation”, and the 2005 winner of the Peace Prize monitored the brains of locusts while they watched selected scenes from “Star Wars”. 2006 was a very good year for studies involving cheese, in one way or another. There was the Biology winner that showed the Anopheles mosquito was equally attracted to smelly feet and limburger cheese, and the “Ultrasonic Velocity in Cheddar Cheese as Affected by Temperature”, which won the Chemistry Award, and the winner in Medicine was titled, “Termination of Intractable Hiccups with Digital Rectal Massage”. And the winner for Literature was Daniel Oppenheimer of Princeton, for his study, “Consequences of Erudite Vernacular Utilized Irrespective of Necessity: Problems with Using Long Words Needlessly.”


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Friday, October 05, 2007

SAINTS PRESERVE US

I believe that claiming a “personal relationship with God” is often just an excuse to practice “Christianity of the naval”. Most of these folks don’t love God, they love their own navels. It is not faith they are celebrating, its conceit. They just can’t tell the difference between the little voice in their heads telling them to hate homosexuals and Muslims and Democrats and Mexicans and the voice telling them to love their enemies. And if you can dare to listen to these babblers it’s always about how much God loves them, and guides them and rewards them. What they are describing would not be a very healthy relationship. What about God? Doesn’t he have wants? Doesn’t he have needs? In Hollywood this kind of behavior could get you arrested as an obsessed fan. And it has always been thus between people and their God.
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What is usually called, retrospectively, “Religious Freedom” is actually the bigoted ranting of one religious fanatic after another, each one so convinced of his or her own righteousness they would gladly burn at the stake those who are burning them at the stake. As an example, consider the fanaticism of William Tyndale, a particularly joyless pound of flesh who is responsible for most of the beautiful language in what is commonly called the King James New Testament. He died this day, October 6, 1536, and he did not die for religious freedom. He died believing Catholics should be forced to renounce Catholicism on fear of death. As for Muslims, Jews, Hindus, and various Amer-Indians who had never even heard of Christianity, they were all going to hell anyway, so ditto for them, too.
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At the time the bible was available only in Latin and according to the 1408 English Constitution, it was illegal to translate even sections of it into English. The nobility and the priests didn’t want a bunch of poor uneducated louts and wenches reading things about rich men having to pass a camel through the eye of a needle because that might lead to questions about why rich people were always rich and why bad things happen to good people and what the hell was a camel, anyway? William believed that the ruling classes wanted to, “satisfy their filthy lusts, their proud ambition, and insatiable covetousness, and…exalt their own honor…above God himself.” The only pure guy in the world, according to William, was William. This guy was Lutheran even before Luther.
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But William’s bible recorded and codified the language of Shakespeare before Shakespeare was born. The New Testament laid the ground work for greatness and nobility of the language, which was not what William was trying to do. He wasn’t trying to save words, he was trying to save souls. The words were just supposed to be a means to an end.
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There is also a bit of irony in that Tyndale was actually born about 1494 (two years after Columbus’s first voyage) under the name of William Hychyns (pronounced “Hitchins”), a “Christian” name he would one day share with one of the most conceited atheists on this planet. And like his future namesake, our William Hychyns was a writer. And he was also an ordained priest and a deacon, a multilingual student of theology and an actual student of Erasmus at Cambridge College. And again, like his future namesake, Hychyns was a big mouth. He could not resist proclaiming at one point, “I defy the Pope, and all his laws; and if God spares my life, I will cause the boy that drives the plow in England to know more of the Scriptures than the Pope himself!" With a mouth and an ego like that it wasn’t long until William had to flee England.
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Like the Beatles, and now hiding behind the name of Tyndale, William went first to Germany. In 1526 his first edition of a translation of the New Testament into what was then modern English was published in Worms. It was an instant best seller, smuggled into England and Scotland, and in October of that year it received official best seller status when it was condemned by the Church and copies were burned in public (This being the origin of the literary marketing phrase, “hot property”). William immediately started rewriting and refining the work.
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Things got even better in the sales department when Cardinal Wolsey and Sir Thomas Moore condemned Tyndale as a heretic and demanded his arrest. But then Henry VIII decided to divorce his wife and Hychyns (Tyndale) felt the need to write a book, “The Practyse of Prelates”, lecturing Henry on his moral failings. Now The King of England also issued a warrant for William’s arrest. It seemed inevitable that eventually, somebody, on one side or the other, was going to burn William somewhere. Meanwhile he continued work on his third and final translation of the New Testament.
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It took them ten years, but in 1535 the Catholics finally got him. William was kidnapped in the free city of Antwerp, and “renditioned” to the castle of Vilvoorde, just outside of Brussels. There he was subjected to what the Bushies would later call “extreme methods of persuasion” including the rack, sleep deprivation, “boarding” and beating on the bottoms of the feet. In addition, copies of William’s New Testament were urinated on in front of his eyes. Gee, I guess the past is just a prequeal. After a year of this “torture”, William was dragged before a church court, presented with evidence and testimony he could not challenge and in 1536 found guilty of heresy.
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On Friday, October 6, 1536, William was loaded into a cart. And in the square just outside the castle gate William was given one last chance to recant. He responded, “I call God to record that I have never altered, against the voice of my conscience, one syllable of his word. Nor would (I) do (so) this day, if all the pleasures, honors, and riches of the earth might be given me.” What a conceited guy; its all about his words, his writings, his translation, his execution.
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The Executioner strapped William to the post with an iron chain about his feet and then slipped a noose over his head and pulled it taunt against his throat. As he did, William cried out, “Lord, open the King of England’s eyes.” Then the executioner jerked the garrote tight and pulled it hard against William’s throat. William struggled and quickly chocked to death, his tongue and eyes protruding. Once the judges were certain William was dead the kindling stacked around the body was set alight. The crowd cheered as the chard corpse smoldered against the chain. Finally, the body began to separate, the chain was broken and the corpse tumbled into the flames. Satisfied the crowd began to wander home. It had been a good another good day for the faithful.

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Thursday, October 04, 2007

COOL HAND LUKE

I have found that life is most simply explained by the “Captain” in “Cool Hand Luke” (played by the late, great, Strother Martin) when he said: “What we got here is a failure to communicate.” Consider the study I stumbled across in the “American Association of Neurology, 2006”, (Fat&Stupid) the objective of which was, “To assess whether body mass index (BMI) is associated with…cognitive decline (i.e., does fat equal stupid?). Says the study, “The black continuous line is the regression line in a multiple linear regression analysis…but a similar shape is obtained from other cognitive tests.” Now, I examined the graph very carefully. I could find no shape. There is a wad and a line. The chart looks like somebody with emphysema sneezed up a wad of snot and chalk dust on a blackboard. And when, in desperation, you turn to the line mis-labeled “Results”, you are treated to a display of why intellect must prove to be as much an evolutionary dead-end as a rhino horn on a horse fly. “Cross-sectionally, a higher BMI was associated with lower cognitive scores after adjustment for age, sex, educational level, blood pressure, diabetes, and other psychosocial co variables.” What the hell is a cross sectional co-variable? If they meant to say that “fat equals stupid”, why didn’t they just say, “fat equals stupid”? Was it really required they do a study to prove that?
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And then, as a capper, they make the following statement on their methodology; “Of the 3,236 persons initially included, 1,013 were not included in the analyses (lost to follow-up or missing data).” This is like saying “One third of the parents who bought “Lawn Darts” are no longer answering their phones, so we just dropped them from our study proving that “Lawn Darts” are safe.
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I suspect that a good part of our communication problem is that we seem determined to mangle and confuse our methods of communication which barely suffice to keep us from neglectfully butchering each other under the best of situations. I learned “E-mail” easily enough, and was even willing to morph it into “email”, and then I had to learn SPAM, which is email you don’t want, and now I have to learn BACN, (pronounced ‘bacon’), which is backed-up email you might want but don’t have time to read. Here in the post-golden age of television, entertainment that was once the “least objectionable programming” has been shortened to “irritainment”, and a situation comedy (SITCOM) about horny teenagers has become a ZITCOM, and what was once respectfully called “feature films” are now just “movies”, and those “movies” that are never shown in a theatre are said to have gone “straight to video”, including those “movies” originally shot on video. (I guess we call those STRAIGHT VIDS, as in “straight to video, videos”.)
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We have stories and movies that inspire sequels or prequels or threequels or possibly even quadrequels, and then we added “intraquels”, which are stories that are set in the same time frame as the original; “Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead” is an “intraquel” of “Hamlet”. Confused, yet? Then maybe you are either an OINK, a one income, no kids family, or a SITCOM, a single income, two kids, with an outrageous mortgage family, or perhaps you are suffering with a NINJA, no income, no job and an adjustable mortgage. (How subprime can you go?) Or worse, you could be a DINK.
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A DINK is either a “dual income, no kids” family, or a family of Dutch ancestry living in Merlin, Oregon with two kids and four cars, or just possibly it is an insult. Take your pick. Mike and Shelly Udink claim they were unaware of the last interpretation until their youngest child, daughter Kawika, applied for her vanity license plate, at which point the family was told they would have to turn in all their vanity plates because when used as a verb their last name “has a sexual reference and is a racial slur when aimed at Vietnamese”, rendering license plates reading UDINK1, UDINK2, UDINK3, and UDINK4, offensive. And the state gets the final say on the matter because all license pates in Oregon are owned by the state; which might be news to the citizens of Oregon, unless their plates are stolen. Asked Mike Udink, “Since when can a panel dictate whether your name’s offensive or not?” I think that’s a good question. Perhaps we should ask the Nigger family, or maybe the Fuckers, or the Kikes, the Rednecks or the Poleloks.
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Similarly, when the California DMV spotted the plate requested by Keith Wagner they rejected it because he wanted “Go 2 11”, which they assumed meant “Go To double L”, or “Go To Hell.” But Keith insists the plate is intended to be a reference to the movie, “Spinal Tap”, as in “Go To Eleven”. In the case of most citizens (as it was with the Udinks), the DMV would have the final say. But Kieth Wagner, God love him, is a lawyer. He appealed, and for his appeal he took the time to research public standards in California and discovered that under the rules of the California State Senate the word “HELL” is not considered, officially, to be profanity. I guess sessions of the California Senate are a lot more interesting than I had thought. And how could the California DMV hold the average citizen to a higher standard than its state senators? Keith makes it seem there is no hope of better communication, even from the best of us. And given what I know about politicians in California, I agree.
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Part of the reason English is often confusing is because it suffers from heterography, which is an English word meaning that the way you pronounce a word often depends as much upon who and where you are, as it does on the way you spell it; or, to paraphrase Burt Reynolds from “Smokey and the Bandit”, “How smart you are depends on what part of the country you’re standing in.” Earlier this year 18 year Czech rider, Matej Kus, who could barely speak English, went down on his bike during a race in Glasgow, Scotland and was knocked unconscious. He woke up while paramedics were treating him and conversed with them in perfectly fluent English. Doctors assumed it was a case of “foreign accent syndrome”, an uncommon side effect of a concussion. But a day later, when Kus returned to his halting attempts to communicate in English with his agent, Pavel Kubes, the agent observed, “It seems you have to bang him on the head to speak English, because he’s not speaking it anymore!”
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But more amazing is ten year old William McCartney-Moore, who went into emergency surgery to relieve pressure on his brain speaking in the same thick Yorkshire accent of his parents and school mates (“Af past ten and ee anna cum already. Wunna cum afor now sure to.”), and awoke after surgery speaking “the Kings English”, “Like a toff’, as his mother Ruth described him (“Half past ten and he still hasn’t come. He won’t come before eleven, for sure”). "He lost everything”, she says. “He went from being such a bright, lovely, wonderful eight-year-old who was totally confident and socially aware, to being a two-year-old who followed me everywhere like a toddler.” It took William almost two years of hard constant work to recover, but now he is back in school with his classmates, but still with a completely different accent than theirs.
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According to Neurolinguistics, William’s response to the challenge of re-learning his language was to re-learn it anew, which brings to mind an incident in Christine Kenneally’s new book, “The Search for the Origins of Language”, when she describes two apes trained to use American sign language, meeting for the first time. What resulted”, she writes, was not a conversation but a “…sign-shouting match; neither ape was willing to listen”. Sounds like Washington, D.C., doesn’t it? But could all that primate silent-shouting actually have been an exchange of information too complex for the dull humans to document? Could it be that the most important part of language is the silent part, the listening? According to linguist Noam Chomsky, no, it can’t. He maintains that the core magic of any language is its invention and creative use of recursion, which Chomsky defines as any process which repeats itself as a product of its function, which Noam Chomsky defines as syntax, which is how you derive meaning not merely from words you use but from the order in which you use them, which Noam Chomsky calls “recursion”.
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My head hurts.
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In any case, it is this crucial question about the value of the silences in language which brings us to the case of Mr. Wendell Hollingworth from Columbus, Ohio, who seems to have a rather fundamental language problem. In January of this year Wendell launched a crime spree, committing grand theft auto, robbing a gas station, a health food store and the Franklyn County Animal Shelter. In order to cap his career in crime Wendell could now chose to rob either an orphanage or a nursing home. Instead Wendell chose to be original and inventive. On Sunday, January 28th he walked into the Christ the King Catholic Church, during mass, and pulled a gun. Now, had Wendell been a great ape he might have attempted to sign his intentions, but clearly he was not taking any chance on being misunderstood. Instead he uttered a single simple declarative sentence, “This is a robbery.”
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Unfortunately for Wendell, not only was he understood, but he was also tackled and disarmed by several of the church ushers, who held him down until the police arrived. Father Michael Lumpel was outraged. “You don’t go into God’s house and do these things; it’s just unheard of,” he said. However the angry priest did take enough advantage of the situation to incorporate the robbery attempt into his next sermon. His subject was “forgivness”.
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Wendell was charged with the two previous robberies and the attempted one at the church, as well as kidnapping and assault, to a total of 13 charges. And yet he was still, eventually, released on $500,000 bail. Finally, on Tuesday, September 11th, Wendell’s trial was to begin with jury selection in the Franklyn County Common Pleas Courthouse. Judge Julie Lynch was there. The prosecutor, Christopher Brown, was there. The prospective jurors were there. And defense attorney J. Scott Weisman was in the court room, But Wendell was late. When he at last appeared, in a wheel chair, he apologized to the judge and explained that he had injured his back. The judge accepted that explanation without asking for details and proceeded. But the activity required that Wendell communicate with his lawyer, and almost immediately Wendell’s communication problem manifested itself; again.
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For some unexplained reason Wendell began to kick Mr. Weisman. The attorney tried to block his assault but Wendell was determined. The judge ordered him to stop. Wendell continued to kick the man hired to defend him. Sheriff’s deputies struggled to control Wendell, who was, you may recall, confined to a wheel chair. Wendell eventually slid out of his wheel chair, onto the floor. The deputies crowded around until finally one pulled a stun gun and attempted to subdue Wendell with it. But his shot missed the mark and a second deputy fell to the floor, jolted by his own partner. More deputies arrived and, as was inevitable, Wendell was subdued.
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I guess it should have been expected that Wendell would have a problem communicating in court. In 1992, when Wendell was being tried on another armed robbery charge, he had punched his court appointed attorney in the mouth. This time Wendell Hollingworth, Master Criminal, was returned to the courtroom in his wheel chair, in restraints and with a thick white towel wrapped around his mouth as a spit guard. Unfortunately for Wendell this did not prevent him from speaking, which he did often and loudly, shouting at one point, “I don’t want to be part of this farce. This is a (expletive deleted) farce”, and demanding to know from Mr. Weisman”, “Why won’t they let me fire you?” It was a question Mr. Weisman was probably asking himself by that point.
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When prosecutor Brown suggested that Wendell might receive a total of 103 years if convicted on all charges, Wendell shouted, “Give it to me now. Give me 250 years right now. How the (expletive deleted) are you going to treat me fair? I’m charged with robbing a Catholic church.” Mr. Weisman took the opportunity to suggest that Wendell be taken to a holding cell. “If issues come up I can address them with him.” The judge agreed and Wendell was wheeled to a holding cell.
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Last Friday the trial reached its climax when Wendell’s own attorney, Mr. Weisman, admitted, “Wendell Hollingworth is a bad person, he’s got a prior conviction and he clearly committed some of these crimes”. The jury disagreed, convicting Wendell on all 13 counts. And on Wednesday Judge Julie sentenced Wendell to 93 years in jail without the possibility of parole. Wendell assured his victims, “I have remorse.” Notwithstanding his remorse, Wendell is appealing his conviction.
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We may never know how much better Wendell would have fared at trial if he had just shut up. But as Cool Hand Luke says, in the abandoned church, "Ol' Man, I gotta tell ya. I started out pretty strong and fast. But it's beginnin' to get to me. When does it end? What do ya got in mind for me? What do I do now? All right. All right. (He kneels on his knees and cups his hands in prayer.) On my knees, askin'. (pause) Yeah, that's what I thought....I guess I gotta find my own way..." .
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Well, as somebody once said, all prayers are answered but sometimes the answer is just, no. And as somebody else once said, “Silence is golden.” And you can take that to the bank.


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Sunday, September 30, 2007

Making Lemon Aide

I would be very tempted to vote for them. Seven candidates for the new Women’s Party standing for election in the October 21st elections in Poland have posed nude for a campaign poster, shielded only by a sign that reads in Polish, “Everything for the future…and nothing to hide.” The party’s founder, Manuel Gretowska, explained, “We are beautiful, nude, proud.” But then she quickly added, “This is not pornography. There is nothing to see in terms of sex.” But then why point out that the ladies were not wearing bathing suits behind the sign?
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It sounds to me like a direct attempt to deal with that Madonna slash whore dichotomy that Madonna has exploited so well in her own career, and it shadows the absurd Republican noise machine’s alleged concern over Hillary’s cleavage displayed on the floor of the Senate. Women have been stigmatized as too emotional and too compassionate for executive positions for the last 4,000 years, while sex appeal clearly helped Jack Kennedy and Bill Clinton attract the bimbo vote, and probably got Warren G. Harding elected President as well. So why shouldn’t women, handed lemons by biology, use their tits to attract a few ‘Mimbo’ votes? (Which is not to suggest I have even noticed if Hillary has a cleavage, …which she doesn’t.) I would say the Polish Women’s Party is just looking for a little lemon aide.
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As anyone who has ever eaten at a franchise steak house in America can testify, a lot of what the menu defines as “steak” ain’t steak. (i.e.,Ground Round is never steak!) But as the price of real steak goes up retailers and customers are desperately searching for an affordable alternative. In Britain a suspicious investigative reporter for an ITV program (“Undercover, Mum”) actually subjected so-called steaks from 15 JD Wetherspoon’s and Greene King’s Hungry Horse franchise pubs and found that while the occasionally hard to chew product was beef it was not from the huge healthy British Herefords or Angus cattle the diners might of imagined. Instead the beef was from something called a zebu.

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Also known as “the humped cattle”, zebus originated in India and have been cross bred in North and South America and Central Africa. Their long droopy ears and dewlap chins are adaptations to hot muggy mosquito filled climates like central Africa and Brazil and Florida in the U.S. but that does not improve the palatability of their meat. The Hungry Horse denied that any of their rubber-like steaks were zebu. But JD Witherspoon’s took a different tact. They responded to the program by pointing out that the, “zebu is…taxonomically identical to any other bread of cattle.” Yea; and Hilary Clinton is taxonomically identical to George Bush, but that doesn’t make him any easier to swallow.
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People who call in sick to work on a regular basis are also taxonomically identical to the average person, but the average person is likely to consider these folks to be flakes or bums. But a Berlin psychiatrist has redefined all these lazy good-for-nothings as “laborophobics”, whom he identifies as people who suffer from an irrational work-related anxiety disorder which strikes people who do not suffer from general anxiety disorders; it is characterized by “…panic, hypochondriac fears, work-related worrying, (and) post-traumatic stress…”. In fact Dr. Micheal Linden suggests that laborophobia accounts for half of all workers on long term sick leave. Me, I haven’t had an honest job for years. I’m a writer. Hillary is a politician. And I would say that George Bush is evidently a narrow minded, bone headed, self centered, self obsesse, idiot. And probably a laborophobic as well.
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Death can be a major employment challenge, even more so than laborophobia. Still when Judge Robert Barnet in Muncie, Indiana, received a faxed copy of an obituary from the local newspaper, the Star Press, for defendant Shawnda Hatfield, who was awaiting sentencing in his court after being found guilty of kiting a check against her former employer, he was a little suspicious. And when he checked the contact number left in the obit for the Florida crematorium listed in her obituary, to confirm Shawnda’s timely demise, he grew even more suspicious. The number had a 765 area code, which is the same code as that used in Muncie, and not a 239, or a 305 or any other area code used in Florida. The mystery (such as it was) was solved when sheriff’s officers knocked on the front door of Shawnda’s home in nearby Dunkirk, Indiana, and who should answer the door but the recently cremated Shawnda. Judge Hatfield then sentenced Shawnda’s ash to four years in jail.
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Sometimes the good Lord doesn’t just give you lemons; sometimes it rains lemons. Such was the fate of the citizens of the tiny Andean village of Puna, Peru. On September 15th something “glowing” smashed into the ground just outside the village, leaving behind a 44 foot wide crater, 16 foot deep, and something else as well, something that made 500 village families sick, dizzy, with headaches, scratchy throats and vomiting. Seven police officers, dispatched to collect samples of the space invader from the now water filled crater, also suffered from the same symptoms and had to be admitted to a hospital. Pravda, the Russian news agency, reported authoritatively that the object that fell to earth was the remains of a nuclear reactor from an American KH 13 satellite, spying on Iran. It was leaking radiation, said Pravda, and was what was making the villagers sick.
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But scientists from Peru’s Mining and Mineralogical Institute disagreed, identifying the object as a typical Chondrite iron meteorite. And while there clearly were odors emanating from the crater, they admitted, they said they detected no radiation. And people who had not visited the crater were suffering along with those who had gotten close to the hole.
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But any concerns about invading bugs from outer space or radiation from a spy satellite were forgotten as when Marco Limachi stepped forward. He was the district authority on the scene and he knew just what had to be done. First a roof had to be erected over the crater so it could be protected and "studied" year round because, “…we want to sell the crater’s image…”. Porfirio Aguilar, director of tourism in Puno, even suggested that Peruvian authorities should get together with neighbor and sometimes enemy Bolivia to cooperate in promoting tourism to the area. In fact, I can almost see the posters at the new “Puno International Spaceport, where everything is for the future…and nothing is hidden.”
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Except, as the old strippers used to say, you should always keep something hidden, else why should the audience come back tomorrow? Just ask Hillary; she knows how the game is played. And by God, this time she intends to play it to win.
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Posted by KAMuston at Saturday, September 29, 2007

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